Aston Martin's DBS Superleggera could be the car to best Ferrari

More carbon fibre, more V12 power and less weight: that's the premise behind Aston Martin's most focused sports car to date.

Targeting Ferrari more seriously than ever before, the DBS Superleggera steps in for the Vanquish, currently the pinnacle of the Aston Martin lineup (until the arrival of the circa $6 million F1-inspired Valkyrie).

And it arrives with pedigree, reviving the Superleggera name – which translates to "super light" – marking the first time the British brand has used it since the DB4, DB5 and DB6 of the 1960s.The DBS Superleggera will sit at the top of an expanding Aston Martin lineup, providing a more potent V12 alternative to the DB11 that is already on sale and further refining the direction for the British car maker.

Smaller, newer thinking

The DBS Superleggera steps in for the Vanquish as the pinnacle of the brand's V12 performance.

However, it's a much different proposition.

Whereas previously Aston Martin would have given such a car a unique design, with the DBS there is plenty shared with the DB11, including much of its interior.

Put that down to current boss Andy Palmer, a man who has turned the brand's financial woes around and given it a more coherent and exciting future. Palmer realises small, independent brands such as Aston Martin have to amortise big spends across more models.

That's part of the reason he's buying V8 engines off Mercedes-AMG: it then allows Aston Martin to design and produce its own V12.

Powering up

It's that latest 5.2-litre twin turbo V12 that is the heart of the DBS Superleggera.

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Whereas the DB11 is available with V8 or V12 propulsion, the flagship DBS sticks steadfastly with the latter. That's something that is likely to increase interest in the V8 for DB11 buyers, all but making the DBS the default choice for those splashing out on a dozen cylinders.

Driving through an eight-speed automatic the DBS Superleggera is capable of hitting 100km/h in 3.4 seconds.

Aston Martin describes the acceleration as "explosive", combining "the responses of a supercar with the refinement of a GT".

Look out Ferrari

That's fast – and makes the DBS Superleggera a more convincing on-paper proposition against one of its fiercest rivals, Ferrari.

Outspoken Aston Martin boss Andy Palmer believes the DBS has the goods to match it with Ferrari, Porsche and others: "DBS Superleggera not only marks the return of a great Aston Martin name, but signals our return to the very pinnacle of the Super GT sector," he says.

Local Aston Martin chief Kevin Wall describes the Superleggera as the most serious competitor yet to Ferrari, and one that will not only tempt buyers out of the prancing horse brand but also others.

He nominates would-be buyers of the 812 Superfast – Ferrari's fastest car – as potential DBS customers, although the GTC4Lusso is more closely aligned on price and its 2+2 seating configuration. .

Slimming down

Despite its broader proportions, the DBS Superleggera lives up to its name by shedding about 72kg over the DB11.

Various weight-saving measures have been employed, including the use of carbon fibre for the bonnet and boot, while the roof can also be optioned in carbon fibre.

There are also carbon ceramic brakes and 21-inch wheels (an inch up on those used on the DB11) wrapped in Pirelli P Zero rubber.

Performance-focused design

It's all part of bolstering the cornering credentials of a car that is designed to perform.

Aston Martin has also tweaked various chassis systems to liven them up for the sharper driving experience.

The suspension has been lowered by 5mm and firmed up, along with adaptive damping is more athletic. The steering has also been tuned to deliver more feedback, while engine mounts have been tailored to the car.

Top shelf

At $517,000 the DBS is about $30,000 more expensive than the Vanquish S - and it's still the most expensive Aston Martin in the showroom.

Its natural rivals include a slew of Ferraris and Porsches, although Aston Martin has traditionally focused more on style than outright pace.

As part of its ambitious expansion, Aston Martin will add vehicles at either end of the spectrum, with a new mid-engine sports car arriving in 2020 and the $5 million-plus Valkyrie hypercar in 2019.

Next year the brand will also unleash its first SUV, the DBX, which will be built at a new plant in Wales.

Brand power

While it's about more, more, more, the DBS Superleggera is also missing something at the back – the badge.

Across its bootlid the brand's name is spelled out, helping with brand recognition in countries where it may not be well known (China is high on this list).

It's the first car in the brand's history not to wear the famous winged logo across its rump.

However, it's still prominent elsewhere, including on the bonnet and steering wheel.

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